This is the print version of this page. All content is copyright Indezine.com 2000- .



Letting Go of the PowerPoint Template: by Nolan Haims

Monday, September 05, 2011
posted by Geetesh on 10:00 AM IST





Tell me if this situation sounds familiar...

You’ve engaged a presentation designer for an important pitch (or you’re that designer being engaged.) You’ve got a lot of content and strategy to create in a short amount of time—so much so that you know you’ll be writing up until the very last minute. So, you ask your designer to “create a template” that you can “drop” your content into.

It sounds reasonable, as does downloading or purchasing a stock PowerPoint template that seems to fit the subject matter of your presentation. But here’s why the insistence on creating and using a “PowerPoint template” is often a waste of time and resources, and often entirely counter-productive to effective presentation:

A traditional template is usually just a pretty frame around the things you’re actually trying to communicate. Your goal should always be to design the content itself. Because of this, we have a saying around my office: Design content, not frames around content.

design content not frame.001

Here’s an example of a slide for which a designer was asked to create multiple templates in advance of any content. (I’ve recreated it and removed any identifying information.)

cruiseshipslide2

The client spent a great deal of time micro-managing image selection, but the designer, with no actual content to work with, could only create an empty design frame. The real sin came when the client “dropped in” the content you see here the night before resulting in an utter visual mess in which the designed template had no hope of rescuing the overall slide.

Did the time, energy and money spent creating this template (and other rejected ones) amount to anything when the content was treated with such visual indifference?

“Template-Think”

The above is a great example of “Template-think.” While the intentions behind this attitude are noble (I’m happy when anyone engages a presentation designer), the results are too often an ineffective presentation.

In the above case, and in general, it is far more important to design content on a slide by slide basis, instead of trying to convey an overall message with a template. Trust me, no matter how much you think that the perfect multicultural image in a PowerPoint template will inform your client that you understand their business, what’s really going to win you their business are the ideas you bring into the room. Nobody ever gave a contract or invested in a start-up because of a PowerPoint template.

The Best Presenters Don't Use Templates

If you don’t believe that an effective presentation can be designed without a template, I only have to point you to two of the best presenters out there today: Steve Jobs and Al Gore. While both utilize consistent graphics and a defined visual style, neither uses a template in the traditional sense, but rather plain canvases on which their content is designed. There are no heavily layered Photoshop backgrounds, no random wavy lines and no footers full of stock photography.

jobgore.001

When I present, my “template” is usually just a subtle vertical gradient from black to dark gray.

How to Design “Template-Less” in Advance of Content

So, if you’re not going to design a standard template, what can a designer do in advance of working with actual content?

Create a “look and feel” through mood boards and sample slides.

A designer’s mood board can take many forms, but for presentation I suggest including a color palette, font(s), graphic treatments and elements and a healthy collection of representative imagery you might ultimately use. Finally, create a few sample slides. (Hopefully you’ll have access to enough preliminary content to do so.) All this will provide a tool kit for the designer and a visual roadmap for the client that provides assurance to the latter that a designed presentation will emerge. Once strong and mostly final content comes in (in an outline or on slides), there should be enough assets and guidelines in place to build the presentation from the assembled “kit.”

The above method is exactly the way a number of very large presentation firms prefer to work. In fact, I was told by one that once a strong look and feel is created and once a solid slide-by-slide narrative is in hand, actually creating an entire set of slides can be a very quick and painless job.

Is a Template Ever Appropriate?

Yes.

A well-designed PowerPoint or Keynote template that makes use of masters and multiple layouts with sample slides is a great solution for maintaining consistency across an organization or within a single presentation. It is also a good way to help your clients “fish for themselves” and create well-designed slides on their own.

At my company, we often create custom presentations from scratch for big pitches and events. But we also have a standard template for everyday use that has pre-designed layouts for case studies, bios, org charts, data, etc. But this template, absent content, looks very unimpressive to the casual viewer: It is basically a plain white page with a logo in the corner. Similar to the slides of Jobs and Gore, it is a deliberately blank canvas upon which content can be designed. The “template” does not attempt to communicate much in and of itself.

I should note that there is actually a lot behind the scenes of our plain white template including style guides, color palettes, default styles, multiple masters, numerous sample treatments, guidelines for imagery and more. Since the template serves as the basis for hundreds of different types of presentations a year, the entire template toolkit has much more than any one single presentation would ever use. This is why it rarely makes sense to build such a detailed template for a single presentation.

If you are creating a presentation system for an organization, by all means spend time working on the template: The assignment will be over long before the content for that presentation next July is ready. But if you are creating a single standalone presentation, invest your energies in designing the content—not the pretty frame around it.


Nolan Haims After careers in theatre and the circus, Nolan Haims moved into the world of presentation, designing presentations for Fortune 500 CEOs, leading financial institutions and all the major television networks. Currently Nolan is Presentation Director for Edelman, the world's largest independent PR company. He writes about visual communication at PresentYourStory.com.

See Also: Present Your Story: Conversation with Nolan Haims

Categories: guest_post, opinion, powerpoint, templates

Labels: , , ,

Comments

Amen, brother! I love the picture frame analogy. Thanks.

Posted by Blogger indianRiverPaddler on Friday, September 09, 2011 11:52:00 PM
Permalink to this comment

 


Post a Comment





Archives

April 2003  |   May 2003  |   December 2003  |   January 2004  |   February 2004  |   March 2004  |   April 2004  |   May 2004  |   June 2004  |   July 2004  |   August 2004  |   September 2004  |   October 2004  |   November 2004  |   December 2004  |   January 2005  |   February 2005  |   March 2005  |   April 2005  |   May 2005  |   June 2005  |   July 2005  |   August 2005  |   September 2005  |   October 2005  |   November 2005  |   December 2005  |   January 2006  |   February 2006  |   March 2006  |   April 2006  |   May 2006  |   June 2006  |   July 2006  |   August 2006  |   September 2006  |   October 2006  |   November 2006  |   December 2006  |   January 2007  |   February 2007  |   March 2007  |   April 2007  |   May 2007  |   June 2007  |   July 2007  |   August 2007  |   September 2007  |   October 2007  |   November 2007  |   December 2007  |   January 2008  |   February 2008  |   March 2008  |   April 2008  |   May 2008  |   June 2008  |   July 2008  |   August 2008  |   September 2008  |   October 2008  |   November 2008  |   December 2008  |   January 2009  |   February 2009  |   March 2009  |   April 2009  |   May 2009  |   June 2009  |   July 2009  |   August 2009  |   September 2009  |   October 2009  |   November 2009  |   December 2009  |   January 2010  |   February 2010  |   March 2010  |   April 2010  |   May 2010  |   June 2010  |   July 2010  |   August 2010  |   September 2010  |   October 2010  |   November 2010  |   December 2010  |   January 2011  |   February 2011  |   March 2011  |   April 2011  |   May 2011  |   June 2011  |   July 2011  |   August 2011  |   September 2011  |   October 2011  |   November 2011  |   December 2011  |   January 2012  |   February 2012  |   March 2012  |   April 2012  |   May 2012  |   June 2012  |   July 2012  |   August 2012  |   September 2012  |   October 2012  |   November 2012  |   December 2012  |   January 2013  |   February 2013  |   March 2013  |   April 2013  |   May 2013  |   June 2013  |   July 2013  |   August 2013  |   September 2013  |   October 2013  |   November 2013  |   December 2013  |   January 2014  |   February 2014  |   March 2014  |   April 2014  |   May 2014  |   June 2014  |   July 2014  |   August 2014  |   September 2014  |   October 2014  |   November 2014  |   December 2014  |   January 2015  |   February 2015  |   March 2015  |   April 2015  |   May 2015  |   June 2015  |   July 2015  |   August 2015  |   September 2015  |   October 2015  |   November 2015  |   December 2015  |   January 2016  |   February 2016  |   March 2016  |   April 2016  |   May 2016  |   June 2016  |   July 2016  |   August 2016  |   September 2016  |   October 2016  |   November 2016  |   December 2016  |  




Microsoft and the Office logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.

Home | PowerPoint | Photoshop | PowerPoint Templates | PowerPoint Tutorials | Blog | Notes | Ezine | Advertise | Feedback | Site Map | About Us | Contact Us

Link to Us | Privacy | Testimonials

PowerPoint Backgrounds | Christian PowerPoint Backgrounds | Business PowerPoint Presentation Templates

Plagiarism will be detected by Copyscape

©2000-2016, Geetesh Bajaj. All rights reserved.

since November 02, 2000